“Ice Breakers,” which stands at 12 feet by 8 feet, is a life-size portrait inspired by a 1910 image that originated from the East Grand Rapids History Room. It shows icebreakers who worked at the icehouses on the shores of Reeds Lake.
“The opportunity to incorporate a significant piece of art that celebrates the rich history of East Grand Rapids into our Community Center is an exciting opportunity,” Mayor Amna Seibold said. “It is made even greater by the fact that it will face Reeds Lake, which has been such an integral part of our community.”
LaPorte met with Mary Dersch, History Room curator, during summer 2015 in search of historical photos that may inspire future works.
“I’m always searching for new sources of inspiration and the EGR History Room is a wonderful resource for my work.” LaPorte said. “Mary’s extensive knowledge and enthusiasm of local history and the stories behind the images helped shape this piece.”
Ice companies were first established on the shores of Reeds Lake in the late 1800s and, by 1903, Consumers Ice Company had a presence on the lake. The company had several very large icehouses, which extended out onto the lake and were located where the current EGR Middle School soccer field is. In its prime, the company had more than 500 men who worked during the winter scoring and chipping ice into 22 inch blocks that would eventually be delivered to homes and businesses in the area for ice boxes.
The drawing was created on 100 percent cotton paper and is based on an original image, though as in all of LaPorte’s work, he made artistic decisions to create an original composition. For instance, the original source image was wider, with several more figures than the final drawing. So he removed and rearranged some subjects to create a more symmetrical composition, which LaPorte says was a nod to the organized, geometric nature of ice cubes.
Though a typical work drawn in 2H pencil like this takes LaPorte three to four months, he completed the work in just seven weeks so that the piece could be included in a February 2016 Texas A&M University solo exhibition.
“I’m drawn to the idea of a monument to the everyday and “Ice Breakers” represents that,” LaPorte said. “The men in the photo were caught in the middle of a hard workday – witnessed by some of their expressions. These were real people in EGR’s history so it just makes sense that they are coming home.”
“This project has been a wonderful collaboration between the city and Chris,” Seibold said. “We’re looking forward to the robust conversations it will create about the arts, history and our community.”
For updates on this project, visit the City of East Grand Rapids on Facebook or Twitter.